THEY SAID IT! Senators On Aging Committee Join Call For Action In Washington To Alleviate Rising Burden Of Prescription Drug Prices

Mar 6, 2019

On Wednesday, five American patients gave eye-opening testimony to members of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on the tremendous impact of rising prescription drug prices on their ability to stay healthy and live their lives.

Their stories, filled with gut-wrenching sacrifices and dangerous last resorts, were met with vows from members of the committee, in both parties, to lend their voices to the escalating momentum in Washington to take action on the crisis of prescription drug prices.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman: “Prescription drugs don’t work for those who cannot afford to take them.  Americans are going to great lengths to pay for their drugs, cashing in retirement accounts, working three or four jobs at retirement age, choosing medicine over food.  These statistics don’t capture the tribulations that Americans encounter every day because the drug they need carries a prohibitive price tag, causing them to stretch or skip doses, settle alternatives that work poorly, or simply go without.”

“We must do more to ensure these medicines are more affordable and their prices more transparent.  Addressing the rising cost of prescription drugs is the top priority for this committee.”

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member: “The cost of these prescription drugs is busting the budgets of families across Pennsylvania and across the country.  Seniors and their families are stretched to the limits.  The costs are overwhelming … These are the stories of parents who take only half a dose in order to make their medication stretch and the stories of families who never expected to need to decide between putting food on the table and paying for a prescription … I’m grateful our witnesses are willing to tell their personal stories … It’s my hope that Congress can act upon the recommendations that we hear from folks either testifying here today or otherwise.”

“Last week the Senate Finance committee heard from the companies that make the prescription medications and set the prices.  None of the executives that testified last week have difficulty making ends meet because of the prices of their products.  I hope, we all hope, that they will watch this hearing and listen to our witnesses share their personal stories and their struggles to afford needed medications.”

Lawmakers also shared stories from constituents who have similarly struggled under the burden of rising drug prices.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO): “Just yesterday I heard from a gentleman who gave me permission to share his story.  His name is Jamal Horton and he’s with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  ‘Due to the debilitating effects of MS, I lost my high-paying IT job.  As a result, access to the medication I needed became financially impossible.  And then I lost almost everything.  Due to the fatigue and cognitive issues, I lost my job, I lost some friends, my marriage, I even lost my dignity.  Because I lost my job, I could no longer afford the MS medication that was stabilizing my disease and because of this my condition worsened and worsened and now I’m living with a more progressed disability.’”

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ): “There is a gentleman in Arizona who is lucky enough to be insured but he has seen the price of his medication to treat a serious lung condition increase five times in just one year.  He’s looked but there are no generic options available that can offer him any financial relief.  Another woman in Glendale Arizona who worries about her husband who suffers from a heart condition but his medication costs more than $500 out-of-pocket for a three-month supply so he refuses to fill his prescription because he’s worried about how it would impact their family financially.”

Senators further noted the challenges imposed by the crisis on American patients and consumers is unacceptable and must be tackled by policymakers.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman: “I believe that there has been a wakeup call in Congress, that this is an issue we must address. We want to make sure that we do not discourage innovation and the development… of important new medicines but we also need to make sure that the system is not being gamed and people are not being treated unfairly. I know that this is a bipartisan cause, as you can see today by the number of senators from both sides of the aisle who attended today’s hearing… Clearly our job is not done.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “Your stories are heartbreaking, the stories of my constituents across New York are heartbreaking and there seems no end in sight.  And so, the fact that this hearing is taking place and we are shining a light on the abuses in this industry and how its effecting people’s lives is important.  That’s the real choices people are making every day because this industry is unwilling to protect people’s lives.  They are more interested in profits than people.  And that’s wrong, that is not who we are as Americans, that is not what we represent.”

As Big Pharma chases record profits year after year by continuing to employ anti-competitive tactics and by price gouging life-altering and saving drugs, millions of Americans are forced to make tough financial or dangerous decisions. The testimony of patients before the Senate Aging Committee today serves as an important reminder of the urgency for sensible, market-based action to bring prices down.

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) commends the Senate Special Committee on Aging for allowing these witnesses to tell their stories and for joining the call for action.